SGI sales mushroom with Atomic Weapons Establishment deal

Atomic boffins line up Intel-powered supers for virtual nuke testing duties

A new range of SGI supercomputers will be used in nuclear weapons research at the UK Atomic Weapons Establishment.

SGI has landed the contract to install a pair of Linux-based SGI ICE XA supers at the UK AWE, responsible for the warheads installed in the UK’s Trident missiles. The ICE XA was unveiled in November 2014 by SGI, which claims that the UK AWE is one of its range’s first deployments.

The systems are designed for what it called “the most extreme HPC environments”, SGI said when it unveiled them last year.

The deal extends an existing, 12-year relationship between SGI and UK AWE on supers. Acceding to SGI, the new range would provide greater scale and flexibility in scientific modelling, at higher resolutions and with faster provisioning than before. The mainframes will be used in work on assessment, design and testing of nuclear warheads, as well as ongoing support, decommissioning and disposal.

Live use of nuclear weapons is prohibited by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, meaning firing and testing must be simulated using computers. To that end, the ICE XA supers feature Intel’s Xeon E5-2600 v3 processors, which can be expanded using Intel’s Phi Co-processors or NVIDIA GPU accelerators.

The systems can scale to tens of thousands of nodes and hundreds of thousands of cores running linked using InfiniBand. ICE XA runs either SUSE or Red Hat Linux. A warm-water cooling system will also save 30 per cent on cooling costs, SGI claimed.

Under the deal, SGI will deliver services that include on-site customer support and project management with installation and migration. The financial terms of the deal were not revealed. ®

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